5 Minutes of Rav Kook at the Conservative Yeshiva (Part 4)

Rabi Kook (Harav Kuk} street, Jerusalem - Old ...

Rabi Kook (Harav Kuk} street, Jerusalem – Old Quarter “Beit David” in Jerusalem (Named after the philanthropist David Reyes). House of Rav Kook and first location of Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the second paragraph of Zironim (Chapter 1), Rav Kook says as follows:

The place where we may find peace is only in God. God, however, transcends the existing world, making it impossible for us to grasp any aspect of Him in feeling or thought. This makes Him, as far as we are concerned, nonexistent, and the spirit cannot find contentment in what does not exist. It is for this reason that wise men who devote themselves to the quest for God are, for the most part, spiritually weary. When the soul aspires to the most luminous light it cannot be content with that light which shines in the quality of justice in the best of good deeds, or in the measure of truth in the most precise body of knowledge or in the attribute of beauty in the most exalted of visions. It then sees the world as trivialized. The soul has become so ascendant that the entire world, its material as well as its spiritual manifestations, appears to it as an imprisonment gripping us in its choking atmosphere. Such men seek what is beyond their reach, what, in their condition, does not appear to exist, and to change the nonexistent to an existent is even beyond the will to entertain. It is for this reason that there is often a weakening of the will as well as of the other life-forces among people whose inner disposition is directed toward the quest for God. (trans. by Bokser)

אבל האלהים הלא למעלה מכל המציאות אשר יוכל להכנס בקרבנו ממנו איזה רגש ורעיון הוא, וכל מה שהוא למעלה מכל רגש ורעיון בנו הוא לערכנו אין ואפס ובאין ואפס לא תוכל הדעת לנוח. על כן ימצאו על פי רוב תלמידי חכמים מבקשי אלהים יגעים ועיפים ברוח. כשהנשמה הומה לאור היותר בהיר אינה מסתפקת באותו האור הנמצא מהצדק גם במעשים היותר טובים, לא באותו האור הנמצא מהאמת אפילו בלמודים היותר ברורים, ולא בהיופי – אפילו בחזיונות היותר מפוארים, אז מתנול העולם בעיניה: היא כל כך מתרחבת בקרבה, עד שהעולם כולו עם כל גשמיותו ורוחניותו גם יחד, עם כל גילוייו החמריים והרוחניים, נדמה לה לבי עקתא ואוירו נעשה לה מחנק. הם מבקשים מה שהוא למעלה מכחם, מה שהוא לעומתם אין, ולהפך אין ליש אין יכולת גם ברצון לרצות, על כן יחלש לפעמים כח הרצון וכל עז החיים באנשים אשר דרישת אלהים היא מגמתם הפנימית.

In the first paragraph in this chapter (that we studied yesterday), he said that only in the “divine air” may the soul find peace. In this paragraph, he presents the problem that the rest of this chapter deals with: God transcends everything we know, and that which transcends everything that we know is, for us, non-existent. If so, how can the soul find peace?

Without an answer to this question, says Rav Kook, the soul grows weary and grey. Paradoxically, it is specificially those people who seek God most who become most lost and depressed. Since they seek a higher good, something so sublime that it transcends the world, they find no delight in the good and beautiful things of the world. They seek a good so perfect that they can’t see the good in the world, and since they can’t grasp the transcendent God, they fall into the greyness of depression.

The solution, says Rav Kook (in paragraph 3), is to recognize that all the good and beautiful things in the world are partial revelations of the transcendent God. Love, beauty, creativity, justice and so forth are “revealed divinity” (elohut). By grasping firm onto what we know is good in our concrete experience, in spite of all imperfections, we can feel our way towards their transcendent source in God.

In our earliar discussions, we tried to approach what Rav Kook means by “revealed divinity” and its transcendent source in God. See our discussions of paragraph three and paragraph four for details.



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